Common Core Standards for Sports

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By John Gardner

Sports in public schools cannot continue to assign and support labels like “winners” and “losers”. We don’t tolerate that in our classrooms, so why should it be acceptable in sports? Athletics should follow the academic practice – mainstreaming players into average teams, thereby reducing the emphasis and focus on special or gifted athletes. Stop emphasizing the win. Cheerleaders and crowds should cheer improvement, not the final score. Instead of waiting for a government mandate, all public school athletic programs should implement no-athlete-left-behind common core standards. 

To meet the core competency, EVERY player will play every game, like they did in t-ball where the emphasis was on learning rather than winning. The first year, there will be no scoring expectations, but all will develop a particular skill, like run down the field, run up and down the court, run the bases… Each year they will add a skill – all players will complete a pass, hit a free throw or make contact with the ball 5 times out of 10. If they can’t, the coach will write a plan for each player not meeting the standard and then work each individual plan. No one can move on until they ALL do.

Eventually, every player will score every game. Once scoring, a player will rotate out and replaced to help meet this core competency. Failure to rotate could result in some players scoring a lot and others not at all – not the goal.

Similarly to the way academics is removing labels like “special” and “gifted”, athletics will stop assigning titles like, starter, pitcher, forward, or quarterback, as those imply higher rank. To meet the common core, every player will play every position in every game.

Size and weight classifications are mainstreamed together. Wrestlers, who should weigh 100 pounds, will compete in the common class. There will be a pre-weight test to provide starting data. The coach will divide players into under, target and over weight groups and write goals for each member of each group, using the format – “___% of the under and ___% of the over weight groups will meet the standard weight by the end of the season.” Athletic teams from all schools will compete in a classless, even (?) playing field. 

Averages and percentages become standards. In baseball, all attention will focus on raising the lower averages to the standard. It is okay to exceed the standard, but those players will be left to work at their own pace, or assigned to tutor below standard players. Baseball strikeouts, walks, home runs, basketball field goals, 2 and 3 point shots, football passes thrown, completed, intercepted, along with field goal attempts and completions, will all be standardized to make sure teams are learning the games well enough to play in the real world. Track and Cross Country will adopt standard times and coaches will focus on meeting those minimums core competencies.

Referees will consider school and team core competency levels as part of their call-making during games or events. Referees will evaluate data before the game and review the progress at halftime for the second half.

Assessing core competencies. Instead of using win/loss records or scores at events to determine success, the government will provide a 4-6 page form that principals will use to evaluate the school, and another form for the athletic director to assess each coach. Coaches must take part in professional development training to learn the forms and formulas. 

Coaches will design a pre-season test to determine what athletes know, but must get both the pre-test and the final exam pre-approved. The approval process can involve multiple adjustments as determined by the professional athletic development person within the building. Note: that person doesn’t yet exist but implementation of core standards will make it necessary to hire more non-teachers to train, administer and monitor the process.

Using a complex formula requiring training to understand, test data will classify (label) as “highly effective”, “effective”, “needs improvement” or “not effective”. The amount of improvement, provided by the test results data, are one of the factors in the coach effectiveness determination. Referees will be focusing on the overall team averages. 

The good news is that with enough enthusiastic coach and administrator commitment to spending major parts of practice times evaluating data and devising, discussing and implementing  individual athletic plans (IAP’s), there is reason for optimism that the end result will be average.



15 yrs experience as a high school band director. 14 yrs as college adjunct faculty. 30+ yrs in the fundraising industry and 24 yrs as a small business owner. (Don't add all those up.). Experience in both the fundraising sales and education worlds give me a unique combination of perspectives in both. I love working with the youthful enthusiasm of today's teenage achievers and with those who work with them.Also 4yrs as proprietor of, which offers a wide variety of virtual services including web/blog design/hosting/managing, social media management (scheduling posts/tweets for maximum impact and brand enhancement) and small business consulting - specializing in school product fundraising.

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